SCARBOROUGH — Nine years ago, as area U.S. Army Reserve and Maine National Guard units were fighting two wars overseas, Mary Nablo and her son thought it a good idea to show them some love at Valentine’s Day.
On Monday night, Operation Cupid, the enduring project that grew from the Nablos’ idea, took on a very local feel at Scarborough Middle School.
With about 50 students ranging from elementary school age to members of the high school girls’ hockey team filling tables in the cafeteria, piles of handmade cards for residents of the Maine Veterans Home and members of the Libby-Mitchell American Legion Post grew quickly.
Amid the glitter, glue, markers, scissors and construction paper, students had a uniform desire to thank those who have served in uniform.
“We want to let them know we appreciate that they risked their lives for us,” middle school sixth-grader Makenna Canty said.
“We want to thank them for the service they did,” Wentworth Intermediate School fifth-grader Charlotte Spies added.
Gone this year was the assembly-line process where middle school Builders Club members, high school Key Club members and other volunteers filled bags with candy, DVDs, paperback books and small personal-care items to be shipped to troops serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.
This year, financial and volunteer help from the Scarborough Kiwanis Club and Biddeford Savings Bank will provide sheets, supermarket gift cards and personal-care items for veterans at the Arthur B. Huot Veterans Housing shelter in Saco.
The shelter, with 10 efficiency apartments, opened in 2010 to help homeless veterans re-establish their lives.
Nablo and middle school health teacher Tom Griffin said the shipping costs and rules for sending gift bags overseas were becoming prohibitive, and there was clearly a need at home that Operation Cupid could meet.
“We have to be a card-making machine today,” Griffin said as he coordinated the volunteer work Monday night.
Shelter residents will also get some gift bags, but Griffin said providing essentials like bed sheets was more critical.
Griffin and School Board and Kiwanis member Jackie Perry delivered the cards Wednesday afternoon. Griffin said materials donated to the shelter in Saco should be delivered next week.
Griffin said about $800 was raised to fund the project this year. Additionally, Blue Point Primary School Principal John Thurlow was provided a mailing list of 176 local veterans from former Libby Mitchell Post Cmdr. David Dolloff, so he could send letters of gratitude as well as cards.
“We hope you enjoy this small tribute and demonstration of love from us all. Thank you for your service to our country,” the letters said.
Donations to the project can be made to Operation Cupid, c/o Scarborough Middle School, 21 Quentin Drive, Scarborough, ME 04074.
Scarborough Middle School sixth-graders Makenna Canty and Elizabeth Tardiff make valentines cards for war veterans during Operation Cupid. The 9-year-old program has shifted from sending packages to soldiers overseas to making greetings and providing care items for local veterans.